GOD MAKES HIMSELF KNOWN
This is the manuscript from my December 21, 2014 Christmas sermon. I forgot to record it and some wanted to hear it. But I can offer is the sermon in written form.
John 1: 1-14
For children, Christmas is the most exciting time of the year. I remember the excitement. I remember the sights and sounds and even smells of Christmas and could not wait for my heart’s desire. Our childhood experiences set us up for a fall when we are older. Christmas may stop having the same feeling and the same meaning.
Last Wednesday night at prayer meeting, many of us related experiences that changed the nature of Christmas. I had lost my father just before Christmas. In fact we have not been home for Christmas very often for the last 30 years. Mike lost his father at Christmas time. Elaine lost her son at Christmas time. Many others had similarly hard times that affect Christmas. As we grow older, things happen to all of us.
For many people, the joy and thrill of Christmas have been taken from them because of broken relationships, death of a loved one, and because of separation from family.
A missionary friend wrote a note to me thanking the church for the gift the church sent to them for Christmas. This is part of what she said. “Please continue to pray for us as we continue to have some ‘lasts’ this year. The boys are finishing 12th grade in May… Each has different plans and this will be the last Christmas we will all be together, at home, as a family… We will be together again but not again in Uganda, living together under the same roof.” You can hear the bitter sweetness of change that is about to come to their lives.
We inevitably grow older and Christmas changes for us. We, who are Christians, have a chance to recover the real meaning of Christ because the old emotional and sentimental things slide past us. We hurt for our loved ones. We long to hold our little children one more time. We wish we could hear their innocent laughter. But they grow up. We grow old. We grow ill and tired and we lose those we love. I think this is the time when we can drink deeply from the well of grace and experience what Christmas is really all about.
But for the lost, for those who do not know Jesus as Savior, Christmas can be devastating. People do dumb things when they don’t understand Christmas. Just yesterday two families’ Christmas and lives were ruined forever because a man, in a moment of hate, walked up to the police car and executed the officers inside. All you have to do is turn on the news or read on your smartphone to see the evil things that people do and their resistance to the idea of Christmas. They hate it, protest it, try to keep others from celebrating it. They must be among the world’s most miserable people.
Isaiah wrote of the darkness and the light that would come. It is an appropriate metaphor for us as well. Our world is dark. However, our light has come and that light is unchangeable and eternal.
Christmas is the result of God’s intention for history. God, long ago, determined how history will end. We should find comfort in that. As bad as things may have gone in your life, God will make it right. It is his will, his providence that will bring history to its proper conclusion. With that being so, Christmas is really a future event as well as past and present. Just as Dickens showed Scrooge the past, present and future, Christmas shows us the past, present, and future to our salvation.
John saw the past, the present and the future. John noted that in the beginning was the Word. It is mind boggling to think of always existing. But, Jesus, the Word, was with God and is God. The word for “word” is the Greek Logos. Logos for Greeks was the divine creative force that generates all things. For the Hebrew mind, the Word was the manifest wisdom and the presence of God. In the very first verse, John was saying that Jesus is God.
The Word became flesh and dwelled among us! The fullness of God was localized in this one we call Jesus. The one, who created all things, comes to us as a lowly child, born to poor parents, into a hostile world. The light came to the darkest place. The Glory of God invades the realm of humanity. John is an eyewitness.” And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Christmas is an intrusion of the future into the past. God has determined how it all will end. The ending is done. It is fixed. God wins. Christ reigns. And now that ending, that Glory, extends back into time and grabs us. God’s Glory has slipped into history from time to time, but never like this. Hebrews 1: 1-3:
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”
It was the most comprehensive intrusion of God’s Glory into human history. God Himself walked among us!
Christmas is a time of warm and fuzzy feelings. There is nothing wrong with this. But it also should be a time that simply mystifies us that boggles our minds that dazzles us and causes us to stand in awe. God became flesh. He brought the future into the present and he has included all those who believe in him. Christmas will always be about God no matter how loud the critics cry and how hard the atheist tries to remove God from society or how hurt we are during the season. The idea of God is woven into the very fabric of life itself. His fingerprint is all over creation.
These are wonderful and beautiful thoughts. But, they only make the question even more urgent! Why did he do it? John says, “He came, to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” He came to his own and they rejected. He leaves his throne and becomes flesh. And if that was not bad enough, he is rejected by his people.
But, the Logos perseveres and overcome all objections. He came so that those who believe could become the Children of God! What an awesome thought! The gospels tell us that the King of Glory came to die for us. His death made provision for our sin and all who come to faith in him will be saved from their sin. Why did he do it? He came to save us is the answer.
A little more than 100 years before Jesus was born, one of the Greek rulers, Antiochus Epiphanes, desecrated the temple by offering a pig as a sacrifice on the altar. The Jews rebelled and won their independence for a short period of time. Hanukkah is the celebration of the rededication of the Temple. This feast occurs about the same time as Christmas. The candle stand, the Menorah, in the Temple is supposed to be lit every night to remind them that the Light of God is always present. They had only enough oil for one night. But a miracle occurred, the candles burned for eight nights. They called it the Feast of Light. This year it finally dawned on me that there might be a relationship between Christmas and Hanukkah because Jesus is the light of men and shines in darkness. He is our feast of Light!
We miss our childhood feelings. We have our sorrow and we miss our loved ones who have gone to be with the Lord or who are so far away. What we have left is the essence of Christmas. Our light has come. We are part of an eternal history guided by the hand of God. Our home, our place of belonging is no longer in the past, it is in the future. God has made himself known to us. He draws us to himself. And every day we follow the light of Christ and his light will lead us home.